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A computer-assisted method for training and researching timbre memory and evaluation skills

, McGill University , Canada

McGill University . Awarded


Timbre is a multidimensional attribute of sound and depends to a large extent on its spectral content. The evaluation and control of timbre is a task commonly performed by sound engineers, loudspeaker designers, and subjects participating in listening tests on the quality of transmitted and reproduced sound. Such listening tasks require specific listening abilities.

This dissertation presents a training method that aims at developing memory for timbre, sensitivity to timbre changes, and listening strategies involving disciplined auditory attention and efficiency. The physical timbre space is divided into categories defined by the center frequency of standard octave and third-octave resonances. This simplification of the physical timbre space allows the memorization of a limited set of perceptual timbre categories or references that can be used to evaluate other timbres.

The proposed method combines the use of computer software for the presentation and evaluation of exercises and individual tutoring sessions with an instructor. The software monitors the actions of listeners during equalization adjustment tasks and allows data to be collected on the sequence of problem solving operators that are used. Performance indicators can thus be compiled and used for the assessment of skill level achieved by the listeners. A global performance index is proposed.

A listening test involving the adjustment of multiple peaks and dips in a sound's spectrum is presented, in which the performance of a group of experienced professionals involved in sound recording and audio post-production was compared with a group of student subjects with comparatively little listening experience but who were trained with the method described in the present work for a period of 6 months. Results indicate that overall the experimental student group outperformed the control group of professionals. Suggestions for further improvement of the training method and performance level assessment are proposed.


Quesnel, R. A computer-assisted method for training and researching timbre memory and evaluation skills. Ph.D. thesis, McGill University. Retrieved April 24, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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